Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

The union representing Alberta health-care staff who walked off the job Monday to protest recent cuts says its members will return to work after the province’s labour relations board ruled they acted illegally.

In a decision issued late Monday, the board ruled the workers’ refusal to work amounted to an illegal strike under the province’s Labour Relations Code, and they must return to work according to their scheduled shifts.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents the workers, said it would notify its members of their obligation to obey the labour board’s directive.

“AUPE members won support from across Alberta for their heroic stand, and proved once and for all that health-care staff is more than doctors and nurses,” said the union’s statement late Monday night noting members will return to work Tuesday.

The AUPE represents about 58,000 health-care workers, although it wasn’t clear how many walked off the job. There were reports of picketing outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital and University of Alberta in Edmonton, Foothills Hospital and the South Health Campus in Calgary, as well as at many other facilities across the province.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision.

“Going forward we expect that all unions respect the bargaining process and stop putting Albertans’ safety at risk. We will not tolerate illegal strike activity,” Toews said.

Alberta Health Services, which delivers health-care in the province, said in a statement that it also expected staff members to return to work as scheduled.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the United Conservative government would be cutting up to 11,000 health jobs to save money during the pandemic, but he said nurses and front-line clinical staff would not be affected.

Some of the cuts are to come from further contracting out of laundry and lab services.

Guy Smith, president of the union, said in a release earlier Monday that members were trying to defend jobs and protect the public health-care system.

“Anger has been building among members for months,” said Smith. “The recent announcement by Health Minister Tyler Shandro of 11,000 jobs being cut in the middle of a global deadly pandemic was the last straw for them.”

AHS said it enacted contingency plans due to the walkouts to redeploy non-union staff, including managers, to cover for missing staff.

An AHS spokesman later said 157 non-emergency surgeries — the majority in Edmonton — were postponed Monday. They were in addition to elective surgeries postponed in Edmonton late last week due to COVID-19.

Toews said earlier that the government’s primary concern was ensuring the health and well-being of patients.

Shandro’s office had declined to comment on the walkouts.

The province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said she didn’t know how the walkouts would affect the health-care system, since there are already staffing shortages due to COVID-19 and the respiratory virus season.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said earlier in a statement that her caucus believes patient safety must always be the top priority, but added the government’s proposal to privatize the work of 11,000 workers in the middle of a pandemic will result in poorer care for Albertans.

“This reckless plan must stop,’” she said.

— With files from Lauren Krugel in Calgary and Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

HealthcareLabour

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Supporters gather during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop cafe in Mirror Alta, on Saturday May 8, 2021. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Police hand out tickets to dozens leaving anti-lockdown protest in Alberta

Hundreds gathered outside the Whistle Stop Café in the hamlet of Mirror, Alta.

Oval Race track at Central Alberta Raceway. (Photo Submitted)
Central Alberta Raceways in Rimbey delays opening after health restrictions expand

Central Alberta Raceways had originally planned to open for the season at the end of May

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Alberta leads the Prairie provinces in being the first to take COVID-19 vaccine bookings for pre-teens. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leads Prairie provinces in accepting COVID vaccine bookings for pre-teens

The province begins accepting appointments for kids as young as 12 starting today

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
File photo
Arrest made for armed robbery in Millet, Wetaskiwin RCMP continue to investigate

Wetaskiwin RCMP are investigating an armed robbery took place May 4, 2021 in Millet, Alta.

Dr. Karina Pillay, former mayor of Slave Lake, Alta., is shown at her medical clinic in Calgary on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
10 years later: Former Slave Lake mayor remembers wildfire that burned through town

Alberta announced in 2011 that an unknown arsonist had recklessly or deliberately ignited the forest fire

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman travelling from Alberta found dead in B.C. park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel’s approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images
Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

Wolf density in Jasper is low enough that the animals would not be expected to be a major threat

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

Most Read